While out exploring the woods and having fun, Nait comes across an odd sight. A sewing needle shoved into the center of a pebble.
The Sword in the Pebble
The best thing about summer? No school! For a month and a half Nait was completely free from classes and homework! Instead, it was time for excitement and adventure! Such as exploring the nearby forest. Though, forest may have been a bit of a generous term. It was pretty small. Which, on the bright side meant it was almost impossible to get lost in it. On the flip side, it might seem a little less adventurous to explore than a real forest.
Unless of course you had a child’s imagination. Which, Nait being a lion cub, naturally did. And so, the young cub ran around the forest dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, picking up sticks and having sword fights with imaginary monsters and saving made up civilizations.
Nait was currently in the middle of a duel with a ferocious dragon, using a tree as a stand in. He smacked the tree with his stick, which was a sword in his eyes, trying to land the fatal blow. Instead, the stick snapped in two.
“Its scales are harder than I thought!” Nait shouted completely lost in the game. He had to find a stronger sword fast! He quickly retreated away from the tree as if it might breathe fire at him any second, running full speed as fast as he could before jumping behind a log. He crouched down behind it for a few seconds then slowly peaked over the log. “Looks safe. I managed to outrun it.” He wouldn’t forgive that beast for getting the better of him! But he needed a new sword before he went back.
He glanced around the area looking for another stick. Maybe he could break a limb off the log. He began to tug on one limb, only for the side of the log to completely split open as he pulled it away.
“GAH!” Nait tumbled backwards landing on his bottom as the log broke. “Okay, maybe this one isn’t going to be strong enough either.” He would have dropped the branch and moved on except he saw the oddest thing inside the log. There was a tiny little stone staircase leading up to an equally tiny platform. Had some sculpted this and then just left it in the log for some reason? To make the sight stranger. The platform had a single pebble sitting atop it. And from that pebble, a shiny object protruded.
Nait climbed forward on his hands and knees to get a better look. It appeared to be a sewing needle someone had somehow wedged into the pebble. That was actually kind of impressive. Needles aren’t usually sharp enough to penetrate stones, even tiny ones. Still, who had hidden this inside the log and why? Curious to know more, Nait reached down and grabbed the sewing needle with two fingers, trying to lift it and the pebble up. Instead, the needle slipped completely free of the pebble, leaving Nait only holding the small needle.
And it was at about that point that he had a sudden sense of vertigo, as the ground seemed to come rushing up to meet him and his clothing grew massive and became a giant tent that dropped down over him. The lion cub let out a squeaky yelp as he disappeared, and his clothing fell to the forest floor.
A small tiny lump moved around beneath Nait’s shirt. After a few minutes, a small mouse with tannish gold fur, not unlike a lion’s, crawled out from under the shirt dragging a sewing needle with it.
“Squeak?” Nait looked around confused. What had happened? Everything was so big! And his tail! The fur was practically gone on it! As it was on his hands and feet! “Squeak!” And he couldn’t talk. He dropped the needle for a moment, feeling the shape of his face, tugging on his ears. There was no mistaking he was a tiny little mouse.
“Squeak squeak squeak!” The sounds of other mice suddenly echoed throughout the woods. It sounded almost as if they were cheering. And then, soon, mice of all ages and fur colors appeared from among the grass forming a massive circle around Nait. There had to be at least a hundred of them. They were all looking at Nait with expectant eyes full of hope.
“Squeak?” Nait stared back in confusion, not having any idea what was happening.
“Squeak.” An older mouse whose whiskers drooped into the shape of a moustache stepped out among from the crowd. He hobbled along, using a small twig as a cane as he approached Nait. He pointed at the needle laying on the ground, then at Nait, then gestured further into the log where it was still whole. Without waiting for a response from Nait the old mouse began to hobble deeper into the log.
“Squeak?” Nait shrugged. He had no idea what was going on. But generally he was told he was supposed to respect his elders. Even mouse elders. He stood up and started to follow the old mouse, only to have several of the other mice start squeaking at him and gesturing at the needle. Nait paused and slowly picked up the needle, and then once again there were the squeaks that sounded like all of them cheering.
The needle was bigger than Nait at this point. He could use it like a greatsword if he used both hands. For now, he simply clung to it and quickly headed further inside the log where the older mouse had disappeared.
“Squeak squeak.” The older mouse was waiting in an area of the log that was completely dark. He sounded slightly impatient as he looked down at Nait. Then, the old mouse clapped his hands, and suddenly the inside of the log lit up with tens of twenties of large lights. It took Nait a moment to realize they were fireflies, perched all over the inside of the log, along the ceiling and walls. Their sudden display of light was only the second most amazing sight right now though.
With the log lit up, Nait could make out the inside walls of the logs. There were murals painted along the wall. They appeared to tell some kind of story.
The first mural showed a bunch of mice happily eating berries and nuts among the grass of a sunny forest. Then, the second mural showed a dark shadow fall over the same mice. The third showed the mice fleeing as the dark shadow, which now completely enshrouded the forest. The shadow had red eyes and sharp pointy fangs. The next mural showed the mice hiding in holes inside trees, burrows in the ground, visibly frightened in a darker colored forest.
Then, the next mural was a different scene. It showed the sewing needle Nait was currently holding wedged into a pebble like he had found it. Of course, the mural made it look a lot bigger than when Nait had first seen it. The next mural showed a large muscular mouse pulling on the needle, followed by a picture of him falling backwards unable to remove the needle from the pebble. And then, an image of the needle in the pebble, covered in shadow, forgotten inside the log as moss began to grow and pieces of the log started to rot away.
Then a new scene. The pebble empty, a young mouse holding the needle aloft above their head. The sun shined down on the needle creating a bright flash of light. The next scene was the mouse with the needle charging the shadow from earlier, the two meeting each other in battle. And the final mural, the mouse holding the sword aloft again, as the shadow retreated from the forest and the mice came out of hiding.
“Squeak.” The old mouse spoke sternly now that Nait had enough time to look over the murals.
“Squeak!” Nait was impressed. He never would have imagined that forest mice were so cultured. How old were these paintings? And how had they stayed in such good shape when parts of the log were rotting away? Did someone com e and do regular touch ups? And wait… Nait looked to the needle he held in his hands then at the mural of the mouse charging the shadow. The old mouse couldn’t honestly be trying to imply… Nait slowly pointed a finger at himself. “Squeak?”
“Squeak.” The mouse nodded. That was what he meant!
They expected Nait to confront some kind of terrible evil and fight it as if the needle was some kind of magic sword! Nait was just a child, and until just minutes ago not even a mouse! Actually, it felt like being a mouse would probably make the fight harder, but he supposed he couldn’t use the magic sword needle as a lion. Still, they wanted him, a lone child to go fight some kind of evil entity.
That was just…
Here he had been, playing with sticks and fighting made up enemies and there was a real magic sword (or needle) and an ancient evil in the forest the entire time! What kid in their right mind wouldn’t want to be the actual hero in a real life instead of just pretend time!?
There was just one problem. Where was he supposed to actually go to fight this big evil shadow?
“Squeak.” As if sending Nait’s thoughts, the old mouse disappeared into a small tunnel created by a branch shooting off from the log. Nait followed him until they were both atop the log as the old mouse pointed his twig into the distance at a tree.
Nait knew that tree. It was the same one had been having his epic battle with earlier when his sword has broken. So, the rematch had come at last. Except, now it was like the bad guy’s lair instead of the bad guy itself. Still counted.
“Squeak!” Nait gave an affirmative nod, then ran off in the direction of the tree clutching the needle in his arms. Upon arriving he quickly hid beneath some of the trees roots to get a look around for anything sinister or evil. He didn’t see anything. There was no great evil for him to fight. That probably meant it lived up in the tree. So Nait would have to climb. He looked over the tree. Climbing it as a lion would have been trivial. Could have gotten into the branches in seconds. As a mouse, it should also be trivial, but it looked a lot bigger and more intimidating.
But, Nait was a hero now! There was a mural and everything to prove it! He came out from the roots and bit down on the needle, balancing it in his mouth so that he had all four climbs to climb the tree. He got about halfway up before he was interrupted.
“Squeak.” Standing on a branch was a white furred mouse. Though, there was so much dirt caught in their fur one could be forgiven for mistaking them for brown. He had a small pin that he pointed at Nait as Nait got higher in the tree.
“Squeak?” Nait jumped from the trunk to the branch the other mouse was on. Was this the great evil? No, this felt more like a midboss type situation. But why would a mouse betray the rest of mousekind? There had to be some story there. But, neither Nait nor the other mouse could talk, and there weren’t any handy murals this time so Nait was forced to make up the story himself.
And so it went. This mouse was a grizzled veteran of war. When the great evil came, he rose up to fight it, and was cast down defeated. Fearing for the safety of his family and friends, he made a desperate offer and pledged himself to be the evil dark overlord’s vassal. He does not enjoy being under control of the Dark Lord. But, defeating the Dark Lord is impossible. It is better to surrender and allow the mice to be conquered with as few casualties as possible than fight back and cause more pain.
“Squeak! Squeak squeak squeak!” Nait called out, trying to tell the mouse that there was always hope, and not to give in to despair. Maybe if they worked together, they could easily take out the Dark Lord! But his squeaks fell on deaf ears. Or at least the other mouse was unable to understand them. Or perhaps he could and simply had a completely different background story. Either way, he charged Nait swinging his pin.
The fight was on, needle against pin. Even though the mouse was an adult, Nait’s needle gave him superior range. But, because of Nait’s small size and age he needed two hands, making wielding it harder. The older mouse was faster with his pin was small enough to be used in one hand. He slipped right through Nait’s defenses and whacked him on the side. While that stun, thankfully only the tip of the pin was pointy and so being hit by its side did little damage. Nait continued to fight back, swinging his sword wildly. The older mouse was forced to retreat backwards to avoid the wide arcs of the needle, and soon the advantage was Nait’s. He forced the older mouse all the way out to the edge of the branch, before swinging the needle again. The mouse held up his pin to block it, but the needle weighed too much and the pin was knocked from mouse’s hands flying down somewhere into the forest below.
“Squeak!” Nait declared his victory and pointed his needle at the defeated mouse. The mouse gave him a dejected glare and sat down where he was. It was clear he wasn’t going to cause any more trouble. But it looked like Nait would have to climb even higher to reach the dark overlord.
But that mouse was but the first of the Terrible Trio that acted as the Dark Lord’s honor guard. And not only that, he was the weakest member. There were two stronger foes left to defeat.
But, they got a summer vacation too, and so had taken time off to go see the city. As a result, they were not physical present and Nait didn’t even know there were two other opponents he was supposed to defeat before reaching the top.
Near the top of the tree, there was an enormous hollow in it. This had to be it. Nait climbed onto a branch near it. This must have been the home of the Dark Overlord. What would it be? A rat maybe? Or a weasel? Or… The way it cast the shadow over everything in the murals. Maybe an owl or a falcon? Birds didn’t have fangs like the mural did but that could have just been someone taking some artistic liberties.
Nait didn’t have to wait long to get an answer. He saw the glowing eyes of the Dark Lord open inside the hollow, and then it stepped forward. He was easily three times Nait’s size. Had a much bushier tail but smaller ears He was a squirrel. The Dark Lord Nait was destined to defeat was a squirrel.
Not what he was expecting. But he supposed he should give the Dark Lord credit for breaking species stereotypes.
“Squeak.” The Dark Lord towered over Nait and drew his own needle sword. But while Nait’s was shiny and pristine, the Dark Lord’s was covered in rust. “Squeeeeak.” Once more, Nait couldn’t understand anything that was being said. So, he just had to make assumptions as he went.
The Dark Lord saw the mice of this land and the bounty of fruits and nuts that they had. He grew jealous of their prosperity and so attacked, taking control of the entire forest for himself, claiming all of the best berries and nuts as tribute. But with the sheer size of the tribute he demanded, the mice would be unable to store up enough food for winter. Mice would starve unless someone sent this Dark Lord packing.
Yeah, that sounded like a probable backstory for the Dark Lord.
“SQUEAK!” The Dark Lord gave Nait no more time to think, lunging at him and attacking with his own needle. Nait no longer had the advantage of reach. The two needles were of equal size, but the squirrel was much bigger able to wield it with one hand. He had superior range, speed and power. With each attack Nait parried he felt himself forced backwards across the branch.
“Squeak!” Nait refused to give up. But if he didn’t come up with an idea soon he was either going to be skewered by that needle, or sent flying off the edge of the tree. But what could he do? By all accounts, the squirrel was superior to him in every way. And if there was any magic in Nait’s needle it wasn’t doing anything to help with the battle. There was no possible way he was going to win this sword duel.
Which meant… He just had to play a different game. Nait grinned, getting an idea, he allowed himself to be forced out onto a branch as the squirrel took swipes at him. He felt the branch bend beneath his paws, sinking downward. Even his small weight was too much for the branch to hold for long. But he only needed another moment. He waited for the squirrel to take another stab at him, then leaped from the branch back onto the sturdier main branch. Suddenly free of his weight, the branch snapped back into place like a whip, smacking the squirrel in the face. The squirrel stumbled backwards, dropping his needle and Nait wasted no time in pressing the advantage.
“SQUEAK!” He tackled the squirrel to the ground, then stood on its chest pointing his needle down at the Dark Lord. “Squeak, squeak, squeak squeak.” Nait tried to tell the Dark Lord that he had lost. And though Nait would not slay him, he was banished from these woods forevermore. The Dark Lord may not have understood his words but he seemed to get the idea.
“Squeak.” He half growled and then squirmed out from beneath Nait’s paws, leaped from the trees and took off running. The evil had been defeated.
“Squeak!” Nait held his needle up in the air triumphantly. Just as the murals had foretold, he had saved the day. Now, he could return to the log where all the other mice were.
Upon returning, he found that a feast of berries and nuts had been prepared. Small tiny tables were set up lined with food. They must have started setting up as soon as Nait left. He supposed that meant they were really confident in his victory.
His return was met with more cheers, as well as the older mouse stood atop the log and gave an approving nod. And then suddenly several mice were all offering Nait gifts, each of them wanting to share part of their own harvest with the hero of the hour.
“Squeak.” Nait rubbed the back of his head. It was kind of embarrassing having all these mice fawn over him. But, he supposed there was nothing wrong with enjoying a hero’s feast. He had just saved the forest after all. Of course, he was still a mouse, and had no idea how to go back to being a lion. Maybe if he put the sword back in the pebble?
Well, there was no rush. He was on summer vacation. He could figure it out later. And besides, who knew? There might be a sequel and a second villain he had to take down. He should probably stick around for a little bit just to make sure a new Dark Lord didn’t rise or that the one he defeated turned out to be the minion of a greater villain. Yup, definitely possible the place wasn’t completely safe. And he was already the hero of the forest. So why not play the role a little longer?
Besides he had no idea how to change back anyway.